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Empty Bowl Lunch hopes to raise $125,000
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Jessica Green, right, accepts a bowl of soup from Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin on Sept. 27, 2016, at First Baptist Church during the annual Georgia Mountain Food Bank Empty Bowl Lunch. Money from the event goes to support Georgia Mountain Food Bank programs throughout the year.

With a fundraising goal of $125,000 for this year’s Empty Bowl Lunch, officials are making room for more tables at the event.

“We are putting the most tables in there that we have ever put in the room to accommodate the crowd,” said Kay Blackstock, executive director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank, which is the beneficiary of the funds raised through the event. “We are close to a sellout.”

A sellout would mean 810 people attending the ninth-annual event, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the banquet hall of First Baptist Church at 751 Green St. in Gainesville. More than 700 people attended last year.

Empty Bowl Lunch

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, presentation starts at 11:45 a.m.

Where: First Baptist Church Banquet Hall, 751 Green St., Gainesville

How much: $30 donation per ticket, $750 donation for table for 10

More info: or 770-534-4111

Proceeds from the auction and the lunch will support the food bank, which works with nonprofit partner agencies with hunger relief programs in Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Union counties.

“It’s the cornerstone of our annual campaign,” Blackstock said. “This is our big time for us to raise the funds that we need to carry us through the hard months when people have blown out all of their charitable dollars at the end of the year. We really count on this to be the big bang to get us going for the rest of the year.”

Blackstock said the empty bowl idea is a concept that has been used in many communities starting with an art teacher in the 1970s in another state who got her students to make bowls, sell tickets and serve soup and sandwiches to raise funds for a food pantry. Over the years, the idea has taken on different forms in different communities.

“It can be really, really simple or really, really fancy,” she said.

The first Empty Bowl Lunch fundraiser in Hall County brought in about $4,000 for the food bank. Last year, Blackstock said the event raised more than $99,000.

Performance Foodservice in Oakwood has partnered with the Empty Bowl Lunch each year, providing the meal for the event, according to Blackstock. The meal will include salads, four varieties of soups and desserts.

There is also a live auction for hand-painted bowls, including one from country music singer Alan Jackson, an original piece by real estate executive Frank Norton Jr., a PGA Barbasol Championship bowl signed by 15 of the golf tour leaders and several others.

Those attending will also receive one of the 1,000-plus hand-painted rice bowls that Blackstock said people have been painting throughout the year.

“No two look alike because they were all painted by different people,” Blackstock said. “Every guest gets to pick a rice bowl to take home with them as a reminder of the empty bowls in the community.”

Individual tickets are still available, as well as full tables which seat 10 people. To reserve a ticket or table or get more information about the event, visit or call 770-534-4111.
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